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Masked attackers harass gay activists in Nepal

Masked attackers harass gay activists in Nepal

LGBT activists in Nepal are reporting increased public and police harassment in recent months.

According to international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacks on Nepal’s LGBT activists have escalated from threatening text messages and being followed by people wearing masks to abductions and arrests.

‘The LGBT rights movement in Nepal is a regional and international leader but is under serious threat,’ said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at HRW.

The HRW is calling for an end to Nepal’s discrimination against LGBT people and organizations, accusing the government of impeding vital operations within the LGBT community like HIV prevention work.

‘While Nepal has made immense progress on LGBT rights in the past decade, the government cannot afford to ignore the many problems facing LGBT people inside its borders’.

Nepal’s recent LGBT rights achievements include government protections of rights, Everest Bank’s third gender option for account holders and sympathetic TV shows. Yet the HRW blames the Nepal government for the ‘climate of fear’ taking over the LGBT community as a result of unchecked arrests and attacks.

In the past two months, national LGBT umbrella organization the Blue Diamond Society has documented dozens of arrests of LGBT people under the Public Offense Act, a vaguely worded law that can result in up to 25 days in detention and fine amounting to more than $300 (€234). The group estimates the government has charged a variety of bail amounts, totalling nearly $6,500 (€5071).

‘The media attention and the prolonged government inaction have created a sense of lawlessness with regard to LGBT people,’ a Health Ministry official told Human Rights Watch.

‘As a result, police feel they can do anything to these people because there will be no consequence’.

The Blue Diamond Society, which acts as financial coordinator for more than 30 LGBT organizations across Nepal, has been particularly subject to the government’s discriminatory practices.

As a result of television news stories that alleged corruption within the Blue Diamond Society, the government launched an investigation into the group, freezing their financial holdings and preventing the renewal of the group’s operating license.

Since the government has failed to submit a promised report on the organization’s alleged corruption, the group’s outreach activities like condom distribution have come to a halt.

The HRW is also highly critical of the government’s blatant homophobic practices, particularly since Nepal hosted a UN seminar last month where LGBT rights activists from across Asia met to strategize on issues including transgender health and discrimination law.

‘It smacks of high hypocrisy for the government to host an LGBT seminar for the Asia-Pacific region, while ignoring the rights of LGBT people at home,’ Reid said.

‘The government needs to end the harassment against LGBT people and groups, which risks undermining the human rights and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment progress the country has achieved’.